Strategy is the big decisions senior managers make in response to or in anticipation of changes in the market or competitive environment.
Those big decisions require a coordinated, sustained effort to implement. But there are distractions. Daily issues and tactical initiatives can steal the organization’s attention. If you’re not diligent, those big strategy decisions can fall out of the spotlight and fail to get implemented.
The organization’s resolve to implement your big decisions may be your most important strategy outcome. Resolve doesn’t self-assemble. You must cultivate it. Here are five things that you can do to get started.
Insist on Rigor in the Process
Strategic decisions are an organization’s compass. They need to hold still long enough for the organization to align to the direction that’s been set. If you shoot from the hip to make these big decisions, there’s a good chance changes will be frequent. Frequent changes kill resolve. Making big decisions that stand the test of time requires rigor in the process that arrives at them. A process that includes:
- Data with sufficient precision to define the economic environment, market requirements, and your competition.
- An honest assessment of where you stand relative to that data.
- Clear decisions about what you will and will not do.
- An assessment of the risks and issues related to your decisions.
A process that includes these elements will lead to decisions that are likely to hold long enough for the organization to act once made.
Create Critical Mass of Understanding
The journey is just as important as the destination.
Make sure that a critical mass of stakeholders has taken the journey through the decision-making process with you. Involve others in the data collection, situation analysis, and strategy option debates, and risk assessments. If the organization understands how decisions were made, they are more likely to commit to their implementation.
Make Change as Formal as Creation
Let’s say that you have arrived at some pretty significant decisions through a rigorous process that involved a critical mass of stakeholders. Buy-in is high, and everyone is ready to deal with the risks, trade-offs, and challenges these decisions imply. Well done.
Then a new piece of data comes in. You meet with a couple of your most trusted advisors at the tail-end of a staff meeting. You decide that a course correction is required. Once back at the office, you pen an email to the rest of the stakeholders to let them know there’s been a change.
Guess what just happened to your organization’s strategic resolve? That’s right, Poof!
When new data comes in that can change your strategy, don’t abandon your discipline. Feed that data back into the process that produced the original decision. Include the same stakeholders. Consider the new data’s impact on trade-off risks and potential outcomes. Then make a revised decision if necessary.
If you make changes to your strategy change process as formal as your strategy creation process, the organization will retain its resolve to implement it.
Define Specific Actions
Strategic decisions are no more than an abstraction until the specific actions required to implement them are defined. Abstractions don’t generate resolve. Resolve comes from knowing the exact steps to take to implement a big strategic decision.
So anytime a strategic decision is made, break implementation down into a sequence of bite-size, tangible deliverables. Assign each deliverable to an owner and get a commitment for a completion date.
Create Regular Inspection Points
Defining actions isn’t enough. You need a heartbeat of inspection points that ensures commitments towards strategy implementation are being met. If you don’t, the day-to-day will prevail, and strategic resolve will fade.
This isn’t that hard to do. You can create regular “Strategy Reviews” or integrate strategy tracking into existing business reviews. Just make sure that inspection points are frequent enough to keep attention on strategy implementation.